Papers of William Stelling von Arx
Manuscript Collection 24
(5 linear feet)
Processing of this collection was partly supported by a grant
from the Friends of the Center for History of Physics, American Institute
Copyright: Permission to publish material from the collection
must be authorized by the Institution Archivist
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Data Library and Archives
Woods Hole, MA 02543
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Scope and Content Note
William Stelling von Arx (1916-1999) joined the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in 1945 as a Research Associate in Physical Oceanography to work with Henry Stetson on Project 19. Von Arx took an undergraduate degree in geology and geophysics from Brown University and an M.S. in physics from Yale. While at WHOI he completed a Ph.D. in geophysical fluid dynamics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
He worked on Operation Crossroads early in his career and also Project I-88, the Barataria Bay Model for the Freeport Sulphur Company in 1949. His principal scientific interests were in primary circulations of oceans and atmosphere, heat balance of the earth and physical geodesy of ocean areas. He is known for his work with rotating basin models and his interests in the scientific uses of cameras and photographic technology. Later in his career he turned his efforts to long-range solutions to world energy problems and he pursued a new technique for the collection and storage of solar heat in natural or open ponds.
In August of 1950 the Executive Committee appointed him Physical Oceanographer and in 1956 the Committee appointed him Oceanographer.
Von Arx taught at Harvard in 1947-1949 and at MIT from 1956-1971. In 1963 he accepted an appointment at MIT as Professor of Oceanography and continued his research activities at the Institution. One of his students was Ferris Webster. Von Arx returned to the Institution, full time, in 1967 and was appointed Senior Scientist. He became Scientist Emeritus in 1979.
He was a Fellow in the American Geophysical Union, American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Meteorological Society, among others. He was an honorary member of the Smithsonian Institution Council and was widely published in journals such as Deep-Sea Research, Tellus, Transactions of the American Geophysical Union, Nature and the Journal of Meteorology.
William S. von Arx deposited one carton of data and another carton of correspondence with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Data Library and Archives (DLA) in 1980. Also in 1980 he deposited numerous rolls of film from projects including rotating basin experiments, cloud camera, GEON and others. This acquisition also included ten boxes of glass slides. Historical instruments used in von Arx’s projects were donated to the DLA at various times. Several folders of correspondence and drafts of papers were retrieved from his home after his death in 1999.
Scope and Content Note
The von Arx papers dating from 1942 to 1977 consist of five boxes, two
map folders along with 72 rolls of 16mm film, eleven folders of primarily
black and white photographs and 40 glass lantern slides, comprising approximately
5 linear feet. The files contain correspondence, manuscripts, notes, proposals,
data and charts.
The series incorporates several versions of the von Arx curriculum vita, copies of articles from MIT alumni publications and WHOI publications as well as his thesis.
Correspondence and memos
One folder in box 1 deals entirely with his work with Pergamon Press and another folder contains paperwork from his term as a National Science Foundation (NSF) reviewer. Correspondents included: Roger Revelle; D.L. Cover, US Navy; Morton Rubin, Chief, US Weather Bureau; W.H. Bradley, Chief Geologist, US Geological Survey.
Another folder in this series includes von Arx’s thoughts on Director Paul Fye’s reorganization of the Institution that appears to have been presented to the Executive Committee and Director. Several folders in the first box involve von Arx’s concern with educating new scientists.
Projects and papers
Projects include Operation Crossroads, or the Bikini Atoll, Rongelap Lagoon, Barataria Bay, current meters, cameras and altimeters as well as navigation. Multiple drafts of papers were retained when the drafts contained substantial revisions or the remarks of reviewers.
This series includes photographs, glass lantern slides and charts and maps. The charts and maps are housed in the Manuscript Collection oversize files in map cabinets. Photographs have been placed in the individual photograph drawers in the archives vault. The lantern slides are also housed in the archives vault.
Papers retrieved from the von Arx home in 1999 were mildew damaged, some beyond salvage including several log books from Chain, cruise 83. Damaged materials that could be salvaged were dried and dusted or photocopied. The photocopies of the cruise notebooks have been added to the Ships Files collection.
Papers were placed in acid-free folders and cartons. Photographs were placed in archival plastic sleeves. The film was placed in metal film canisters and labeled.The film is numbered and shelved in a climate-controlled film vault. The photographs are in the Archives’ collection of scientists’ photographs in alphabetical order in the Archives vault.
The original arrangement of the materials could not be discerned. Effort was made to arrange the folders by project and subject. The original titles of the folders were kept, when known. No logbooks or other documentation were available to identify much of the film. Film from projects, such as the rotating basin experiments was sampled for various dates, techniques or subjects. From the GEON project, for instance, a roll of film each from Jupiter, Saturn and the Moon were kept. Finished products, such as the educational film “Laboratory studies of the wind driven ocean circulation” were retained. Film documenting the history of the Institution or the local area was also retained. A complete listing of the photography from the von Arx collection is located in the container list.
Von Arx also deposited a large number of glass slides in 1980. These slides were likely used in his classroom, many were made from illustrations from his publications. These were also sampled. Images identified as illustrating his published papers were removed as were images taken from other published works. Images of people, instruments and ships, or images not included in the collection either through his published papers or photograph collection were kept. Many of the 50 remaining slides concern the International Ice Patrol, and work on the Gulf Stream.
Processing of this collection was partly supported by a grant from the Friends of the Center for History of Physics, American Institute of Physics.
A number of scientists worked on Operation Crossroads, also known as
the Bikini Atoll project. An unprocessed document box located in the Archives
Vault contains materials related to the overall project.
The Columbus O’Donnell Iselin papers (MC-16) contain references to von Arx. The Records of the WHOI Office of the Director (AC-9) contain material concerning von Arx and his projects including box 11, folder 64 and box 13 folders 12 and 55. Also in the Records of the Director see correspondence, individual and personnel and Office of Naval Research (Nonr) contracts.
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|Biographical information and CV|
|Honors thesis, A spectrochemical study of certain igneous rocks of central New Hampshire, April 1942|
|Proposed program for thesis, May 27, 1954|
|Thesis draft, An experimental study of the dependence of the primary ocean circulation on the mean zonal wind field, May 1955|
|Correspondence and Memos|
|Pergamon Press, 1955-1957|
|Joint Crossroads Committee, 1947|
|National Science Foundation Advisory Panel for Earth Sciences, July 1957|
|Phoenix, December 1961|
|A Science in Bondage, February 1965|
|Alumni Lecture, MIT, June 14, 1965|
|Memo: WHOI Education, 1967-1968|
|Notes: Educational Philosophy, MIT, undated|
|Memo: Educational participation, December 12, 1975|
|Letter: University of Alaska, Geophysical Institute, February 1977|
|Memo: Staff Committee, January 9, 1978|
|Reflections on war and post-war years at WHOI, July 1991|
|Projects and Papers|
|2||Muir Cruise (1-11) 45 Philadelphia – Daka- New York, 1945-1946|
|Drafts: Circulation systems of the Bikini and Rongelap Lagoons, c. 1946|
|Drafts: Some aspects of the physical oceanography of two atolls, c. 1946-1947 (2 folders)|
|A second survey of the physical oceanography of Bikini Atoll, prel. rpt. – revised with correspondence from W.H.. Munk, July 1946|
|Second survey of Bikini: Diffusion data, current data, tide data, charts, notes, graph plots, 1946|
|First Bikini survey, current observations, March-May 1946|
|Bikini Atoll data, c. 1946|
|Bikini Atoll field survey, c. 1946|
|Bikini Atoll field surveys, c. 1946|
||Paper read before the Limnological Society of America, Boston, December 29, 1946|
|The current systems at the Bikini Atoll, a report. May 1946|
|Base charts prepared by K.O. Emery for the Bikini Atoll project, 1947|
|A survey of the physical oceanography of the Rongelap Lagoon, (prelim.rpt.), 1946|
|Notebook: Memos, data, correspondence, plans and reports, 1946|
|Navy request for chart of Bikini Lagoon prior to Baker Day, and copy of chart, July 7, 1947|
|3||Barataria Bay model tests, October 1949|
|Barataria Bay model tests, October 3-13, 1949|
|Barataria Bay model tests, October 3-18, 1949|
|Barataria Bay model tests; titrations by Nat Corwin, October 5-13, 1949|
|Barataria Bay model – A report to Freeport Sulphur Co. 3rd draft 1950|
|Draft: Barataria Bay model tests; acid and water density adjustments, October 4. 1949|
|Barataria Bay model tests, Appendix III, 1949|
|The Barataria Bay model, a report to the Freeport Sulphur Co. August 1950 (copy #8)|
|Unidentified data with Monthly mean world pressure and pressure anomaly profiles, 1950|
|Some suggestions for future current measuring techniques, 1952?|
|Notes, data, correspondence: current meter, 1947-1951|
|Notes, correspondence, drawings: current meter, 1955-1962|
|Discussion and correspondence concerning electrodes, 1950-1952|
|USGS acknowledgment, Prof. Paper 260-BD, May 28, 1954|
|Measurement of the lateral set of a submarine by time integration of the rudder angle used in steering a straight course, May 1957|
|Notes and drafts: Rotating basin reports, 1952-1953|
|Notes: WHOI 55-13, by Alan J. Faller and William S. von Arx, c.1955|
|On the fine structure of the Gulf Stream front, manuscript, 1955|
|Comments on AEC conference on the disposal of radioactive wastes, June 1955|
|4||Patents: applications, correspondence, 1956-1957|
|Schematic drawing, aircraft camera, July 9, 1957|
|Progress report J-1, January 1-April 1, 1956: The Ocean Model, 1956|
|Progress report for J-1, Period 1 April – 30 June, 1956: Studies of the ocean circulation, 1956|
|Synoptic photograph optics, 1953, 1957-1959|
|Flat model, notes, 1954|
|Notes: First order solution for a near earth satellite…, n.d.|
|Time-lapse cameras for R/V Crawford, 1956|
|Reports, notebook and other USS Cobbler information, 1957|
|Proposal and correspondence: Continuation of JOG-LOG, June 1958|
|Navigation and leveling at sea, undated|
|Manuscript: Motions of the sea and air, 1962|
|University of Alaska, 1962|
|Rotating tank apparatus, n.d.|
|A proposal to NSF to equip a graduate research laboratory for physical oceanography, 1964|
|Comments on chemical parts of MIT’s program in oceanography and marine physical geodesy and lecture drafts, 1964|
|Given: the Earth, 1964-1965|
|Practical astronomy from shipboard, 1964-1965|
|A study of satellite altimetry for geophysical and oceanographic measurement, 1965|
|Manuscripts: Level surface profiles across the Puerto Rico Trench, 1966|
|Orbiting microwave altimeter, 1965-1966|
|First Marine Geodesy Symposium, 1966|
|5||Industrial Liaison Symposium, December 1, 1966|
|Voice of America, The Oceans (Blue Planet), 1966|
|Celestron Pacific – Telescopes and camera, 1966-1968|
|Log, includes Chain 67, May-August 1968|
|Convex mirrors, n.d.|
|Unidentified data [camera work?], n.d.|
|Gravity at sea; an account of two experiments, pt.II, n.d.|
|Draft: Experimental oceanography, n.d.|
|Kern instruments, n.d.|
|Physical oceanography, n.d.|
|Correspondence from O. Steinebrunner with notes, September c. 1970|
|An optical trap for the use of diffuse solar radiation in hyperthermal aquaculture, Sea Grant project, 1976-1977|
|Proposal: Non concentrating collectors for solar heating and cooling applications, 1977|
|Draft: A groundwater storage solar heating system for greenhouse agriculture, October 18, 1977|
|Proposal: Annual cycle solar heat storage and retrieval system, 1977|
|Moving water, notes, undated|
|Rolled graph paper data, magnetic or gravity measurements? 1946-1947, 5 boxes|
|Photo drawer||Still Images – Photo collections|
|Prints and negatives from Cruise Atlantis 167, Earth inductor photographs for correlation with V.63 speedomax record|
|Negatives with notes on location, Atlantis 167, Sea state,|
|Photos removed from Muir Cruise and Bikini Atoll, Box 2|
|Photos removed from Rongelap Lagoon & Barataria Bay, Box 2|
|Photos removed from Current meter, Box 3|
|Photos removed from Rotating basin reports, Box 3|
|Crawford cameras, removed from Box 4, following Time-lapse cameras for R/V Crawford|
|Nonr 1831, prog. rept., June 1956, removed from Box 4, following Time-lapse cameras for R/V Crawford|
|Photos removed from Navigation and leveling at sea, and Univ. of Alaska, Box 4|
|Photos removed from boxes 4 & 5, Proposal to NSF…, Some techniques…, Kern instruments, Moving Water|
|Photos and negatives removed from end of box 5|
|box||Glass Lantern Slides (50) -- Vault|
|map drawer||Muir cruise data charts|
|JOG-LOG, USS Cobbler data charts|
|Bikini Atoll nautical charts|
|GEK recorder, Earth current and Twilight studies|
|Film vault||16mm film|